What is a Super Collector?
By David Tenneson aka Klausw205
As a broke newly-wed living in the precarious time between getting my college degree and having to start paying off school loans, I’m pretty sure I picked the worst possible time to fall empty pockets-over-heels in love with the hobby. No money and lost amidst the drowning tide of parallels, inserts, autos, and a myriad of fake eBay patches, it’s not surprising that my first few months in the hobby were spent on the bench watching others. I became the not-so-metaphorical kid taken to his first major league baseball game and, like the 5 year-old me, I was completely hooked from the first bite of that over-priced hotdog!
Fully enamored by a craft I wasn’t close to understanding, the first rule of card collecting proved to be….well, learning the rules. I’ve taken hundreds of exams (even passed one midterm on a day I didn’t even know I was having one), but I have never in my life studied harder or put more research into a project than trying to discover my place in the hobby. Google thoughtfully provided me with hundreds of thousands of hits for “baseball card collecting,” and I’m proud to say that I read right up to the start of the Pokémon card collecting threads (which sadly outnumbered the what-to-collect guides about 100,000:1).
Something about all of those Pokémon card collector articles stuck with me, however, and it wasn’t until I had already found my home at the SportsCardForum website that I fully understood what it was; the pure passion of chasing after that one particular card that makes your entire deck perfect. There are hundreds of those little monsters to choose from and they all have their unique abilities, but that doesn’t stop people from entering into fierce debates over which monster is the best. My grass monster might trump your water beast, but Billy’s fire fiend will kick my butt! What does that translate into? Well for me, chasing after the perfect monster to complete the best deck is what separates the super collector from all other hobbyists.
For those who don’t know, the generally agreed upon concept of “super collecting” is where a collector spends a vast majority of his faculties (time, money, passion, etc…) accumulating everything he or she can of one particular player, icon, or monster. For some people, this turns into a vast collection of duplicate sport cards spanning a player’s entire career. For others, the focus of their collection isn’t limited to just a player’s cards, but rather spills over into the world of memorabilia collecting and personal autograph seeking. No matter what your poison, though, super collecting all comes down to that special connection a collector feels with the person whose items they are collecting. It’s not done for money, it’s for the passion and if you don’t believe me, spend an hour looking through SportsCardForum.com’s various super collecting hall of fames at the different stories for why each collector chose their particular icon.
For me personally, I realized that although I greatly enjoyed the idea of collecting cards of players who play for my favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, this general amassing of cardboard didn’t give me the connection to the hobby in a way that felt personal enough. It seemed to me that collecting baseball cards should be bringing me closer to the players in a way simply watching them on television couldn’t quite fulfill. I had learned to unravel many of baseball’s finest nuances, and yet the subtle differences between the various colored refractors in the different bi-monthly product releases still went way over my head. Without an online Beckett subscription (limited to one sport for financial reasons) and the incredibly well-written articles on CardboardConnection.com, I’m not entirely certain even the idea of pulling a mythical 2010 Allen & Ginter Stephen Strasburg mini card would have kept me in the hobby! I’ll be the first to admit that my college degree was no match against the education I received watching 12-year-old kids doing several hundred dollars worth of breaking wax on YouTube. And if you really want to feel stupid, try taking your knowledge of the minor league farm system into the world Donruss Elite Extra Edition or Topps Pro Debut. Who knew that an on-card auto is not a sticker auto is not a cut auto?
The fog lifted one magical evening in late May (ironically, on the day I was originally scheduled to get married before it was pushed back to June) when a Phillies pitcher who was not the beloved Cliff Lee propelled himself into baseball lore with the 20th perfect game in major league history. Roy Halladay’s achievement felt special to me, simultaneously giving the game a new life as well as giving me an icon to focus on in my cardboard collecting. This man had dominated his opponent in the most monstrous game of his life, becoming the ultimate pitching beast, and because I had watched it I felt that connection I had been missing. I suddenly found myself spending more and more time drudging up information on Mr. Halladay’s career and combing through card trading threads looking particularly for the Phillies pitcher.
Without warning or pretext, my obsession had solidified and morphed into an unshakable bond that brought me into the world of super collecting. I now wanted to get my hands on any and every card/ticket stub/collectable depicting Roy Halladay and it didn’t matter to me in the slightest that almost everything on the market featured him in a Toronto Blue Jays jersey (the team he played for since 1997). This one player for me transcended team loyalty and his perfect performance before a nearly empty Florida stadium made baseball more than just a sport. In conjunction, Roy Halladay baseball cards now represented pieces of that bond I had been looking for that could bring me as close as possible to the game I loved. Gathering these pieces, both large (1997 Bowman Gold Ink Auto RC, book value: $700) and small (see random base card, book value: $0.15), represented the chase towards putting together my monster deck and I am driven to complete this at any cost.
So what does super collecting mean to me? It means that this broke newly-wed unsure much else is certain that his life will forever be filled with an ever-growing collection of Roy Halladay cards, as well as any random pieces of memorabilia he can get his hands on. I will never sacrifice my wife, livelihood, health, or future family to this cardboard passion, but rest assured that someday my children will be able to perfectly recite the story of how their father fell in love with the game of baseball (and if that leads to a sweet room filled with innumerable Roy Halladay artifacts, so be it). I might still be relatively broke in the future, but nothing will compare to the joy of watching a ballgame with my boy(s), looking through all of their dad’s old baseball cards of his favorite player.
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